I haven’t been to a con on Farpoint’s old weekend (Columbus Day, politically incorrect as it now is) since, well… Farpoint 2000. People still complain that Farpoint made the choice to move from October to February, but, well, if we moved back now we’d be against Capclave. And that would be a shame, because Capclave is not a con I’d want to miss, or hold a con up against. It’s not a huge con, just as Farpoint isn’t. It is, like Balticon, a literary SF con, sponsored by the Washington Science Fiction Association (WSFA). The program was chock-full, with six tracks running until midnight Friday and Saturday, and I was kept quite busy throughout, which is how I like it.
My first event was a 30-minute reading. I’d planned to read as much as I could in 30 minutes of “Chinigchinix Nixes Pix,” from ReDeus: Native Lands. I was up against the dinner hour, however, so I began the reading with only Renee and the boys as my audience. As luck would have it, “Nixes Pix” is one of the few stories I’ve written that I had decided to read to them in its entirety before submitting it; so they’d heard it. I decided to read, instead, from the unfinished Arbiter Chronicles story I’m currently writing, so at least they’d hear something new. And maybe someone would show up late. As I was about five minutes from the end of the first scene, a couple did show up late. When I finished, they told me they’d found the story riveting, even coming in in the middle. They wanted to know all about the Arbiter Chronicles, and they said they definitely wanted to hear me read more. So I think, at least, I won a couple of new podcast listeners.
In the convention and fan club table areas I was flagged down by Lee of the National Capital Panthans, an Edgar Rice Burroughs fan club. I had met a couple of the members at Balticon a couple of years ago, but I guess I hadn’t registered that they were a local club. Lee and Bob were very welcoming, and seemed very excited to learn that my family were all fans of Burroughs at some level. (Even my non-SF-fan wife enjoyed John Carter. As did everyone I’ve talk to who saw it. Damned shame Disney decided to declare it a failure before its release!) I spent a good deal of time talking to them, and the boys and I happily accepted their dinner invitation Saturday evening. It’s funny I ran into them this weekend, since I’d only just decided to join the International Burroughs fan club, the Burroughs Bibiliophiles, a few days earlier, after coming across some old copies of their club magazine, the Burroughs Bulletin, amongst a lot of Tarzan comics.
My last Friday event was an 11:00 panel on fan fiction. I wasn’t surprised to be the only male on the panel. Even though I know dozens of male fan fic writers and zine publishers (and indeed noted on the panel that I believe all of my professional author friends and acquaintances have written for fanzines), it doesn’t seem a lot of men come forward to join the fan fic panels. (Shore Leave this year held a panel which was an exception–Paul Kupperberg, Phil Giunta and I participated in a fan fiction panel that was more heavily male than female.) I was happy to see a very diverse audience, and I was surprised by the diversity of fandoms represented on the the panel: Marvel’s Avengers (Janine Spendlove), Highlander (Jean Marie Ward), Star Trek (of course, and that was me) and Gunsmoke (Elaine Stiles). We covered the usual points: how fan fiction helps writers develop their craft, how some writers never want to move out of fan fiction, how fan fiction which makes no money can (sadly) be much better than some bestselling fiction which rakes in millions. One audience member offered a new wrinkle, though, and I really liked it. Shout out to the enthusiastic young writer of Hanson slash fic who pointed out that fan fiction can help young fans as they discover their sexual identities.
My autograph session Saturday resulted in only one book being signed, but, unlike some sessions where I sat bored and forlorn while not signing, at this one I was visited by many very nice people who wanted to talk about my work and about Farpoint. Thanks to all of you for keeping me company!
“Color Kid and Stone Boy” was a panel about super-heroes that only die-hard comics fans have ever heard of. That’s what it said in the program book, anyway. What it turned out to be was a free-for-all that poor James Maxey tried to moderate while Avengers fan (and Batman anti-fan) Janine Spendlove, Brenda W. Clough and I wandered way off topic and shouted out controversial opinions. Biggest take-away from this one for me? A lot of people are really mad at DC Comics! Glad I’m not alone. Great audience for this one, and we all had a lot of fun.
What is there left for me to say about podcasting? I’ve been doing it since 2005 and talking about it just as long. Surprisingly, though, I was able to spend a very enjoyable hour with Tee Morris, Kate Baker and Scott H. Andrews talking about just that, and I actually picked up a few new tips to help me in my own podcasting. And hey, it was great to be on a panel with Tee again, even if he did dub us both, “The Old Curmudgeons of Podcasting.” It’s been too many years.
I felt a bit, um, outclassed by James Morrow and my other fellow panelists (Tee Morris, James Maxey, Val Griswold-Ford) as we kicked around literary allusions on “Quote the Raven,” a panel about how classical literature is referenced (good and bad) in genre fiction. James is a teacher, and stumped the class with several pointed questions. About the best that I could offer to the discussion was that, in Unfriendly Persuasion, I’d re-plotted the ending after the first draft to make Metcalfe’s journey follow the archetype of the classical ephebic hero. If anyone noticed it, they didn’t mention.
The Saturday mass autograph session for authors and artists was nicely handled. A free drink ticket for each of us was a nice touch, and special thanks to Catherine Asaro for offering to retrieve my drink while I set up. She admitted she knew nothing about beer, so when I asked for something that wasn’t Bud or Miller Lite and she came back with a Flying Dog IPA, I decided she just must have psychic ability. And a hotel mobile bar that stocks a Flying Dog IPA is something special, too! It was a nice feeling to see a huge line outside, waiting to get into the ballroom where we were all signing. Well… okay, they were in line for George R.R. Martin, but it was a nice feeling anyway. And several of them did stop to chat, get an autograph, take a business card, and buy books.
I was too beat, sadly, to attend the launch party for The Dogs of War, so I missed out on Danielle Ackley-McPhail’s home cooking. Hope the party went well, guys, and congratulations to the authors!
Sunday I rushed to get to my Noon panel, “Self Publishing and You.” (After all, who else does self-publishing go with?) You see, I thought the panel was at One, giving plenty of time to go to my (shamefully heretical) Sunday School class and then lounge around for a bit. I only realized at 11:18 that I had 42 minutes to get from Elkridge to Gaithersburg, a 35-minute drive. God bless the ICC! I made it five minutes early. (Yeah… I mighta sped a little…) I enjoyed commiserating and celebrating the life of a small press publisher with Jennifer Barnes, whose Raw Dog Screaming Press has just marked ten years in business. Jason Jack Miller impressed us with the beautiful cover art of his Appalachian-themed works, published by Raw Dog. Betsy A. Riley has a beautiful southern accent. It was fun just listening to her talk about putting together poetry and visionary fiction anthologies. Andrew Fox kept us moving with insightful questions, not necessarily an easy thing to do on a Sunday morning at a con. Self-publishing and small press publishing are not easy, and there’s plenty to discourage you along the way. Being on this panel reminded me that being a small press publisher puts me in the company of some classy, talented people.
Between panels, I caught up with Doc Coleman. We’d done one other panel together a few years back, but hadn’t had much chance to talk. He was an active participant in several of my panels this weekend. He reminded me that sometimes my podcasts are a little hard to track down. I need to fix that! For now, the link about at least points to my rss feed. But I’m going to build a complete index.
And finally, proving we really don’t any of us get tired of talking about podcasting, I got to discuss audio fiction anthologies with Kate Baker, Norm Sherman of EscapePod, and Patrick Scaffido, who puts together Balticon’s wonderful new media track. For the second time that weekend, we fielded the question, “How do you find good podcasts?” It’s a good question, and it’s hard to answer. There’s no real recommendation list or search engine anymore, besides iTunes, and I hear iTunes misses a lot. The best we could come up with was to check the Parsec Award nominees, as well as Podiobooks.com. That will turn you on to some of the best, and, from there, well, we tend to drop each others’ names a lot. Neil Ottenstein, one of my most loyal readers and listeners, and a great photographer, captured this last panel on camera, proving I didn’t look completely worn out by the end. (The sodas, courtesy of the con suite, helped! I drink maybe one soda a month.)
All in all a great con. Highly recommended.